Locked Doors & Pretty Fences

Joel Henderson

In popular music, the awkward years come between 35 and 50 — too young to be a grizzled vet, too old to be hungry and fresh-eyed, just right to begin the Dad Rock years. Thankfully, Joel Henderson does a surprisingly lively variation on the genre, employing skilled accompanists to support his confident, engaged performance. While Henderson’s themes are universal and time-proven (relationships, growing up, etc. — y’know, Springsteen without the social justice), his blending of middle-aged folk and youthful pop-rock, a la Ron Sexsmith, often works. Heidi Gluck’s backing vocals especially help keep it interesting, and Mick Sullivan (banjo) and Bill Mallers (keyboards) outshine the rest of the band, alumns of John Prine, Buddy Miller, Over the Rhine, and The Lemonheads. This record was years in the making; it’s not quite Woodford Reserve, but this collection aged well.